In 2003, while working two jobs in Boston with plans to pursue a graduate degree in psychology, Williams College and Punahou School graduate Sarah White suffered a bleeding stroke brought on by a condition she didn't even know she had–arteriovenous malformation, a congenital condition resulting in a tangle of blood vessels. During emergency surgery part of her cranium was removed to reduce the swelling in her brain, and she spent five weeks in I.C.U. Sarah survived, but was left with no feeling to her right side, and her speech had been effected. She then faced the arduous journey to recovery.
Sarah had been a swimmer on both her high school and college teams. The change in her lifestyle meant her single mother, Meg, would now need to assist as her caregiver. “My job is so much easier because she has handled this so well,” said Meg. “My big worry is to provide for her as I get older, to make her as independent as she can be.”
Sarah and Meg, both You’re The Cure advocates, represented Hawaii at the American Heart Association’s National You’re the Cure on the Hill event in Washington, D.C. in June. There they shared information with Hawaii’s Congressional representatives on how proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act might negatively affect them and thanked them for opposing the current House and Senate health care proposals. They also advocated to make heart and stroke research a national priority by increasing the National Institutes of Health budget by 6 percent, or $2 billion, for 2018; to expand access to stroke telemedicine, and to expand access to cardiac rehabilitation. Their story and compelling presentation drew support from each of Hawaii’s Congressional representatives and staff members with whom they met.
Sarah continues to swim using one arm and both legs, and has become an accomplished painter, using her left hand. And, in addition to their dedicated advocacy work, Meg and Sarah are regular participants at the Association’s Oahu Heart Walk event, where they inspire other participants by completing the 1-mile survivor course together.